Summary: With Harry off hunting Horcruxes, Ginny, Neville and Luna reform the DA and do what they can against the new regime at Hogwarts. Contains spoilers for DH!
Ginny couldn’t remember a time that she didn’t want to attend Hogwarts. Ever since she was old enough to be aware of such things, she’d wanted to follow in her older brothers’ footsteps. Stepping onto Platform 9 ¾ to embark on her sixth year of wizarding education, she realised that this year, for the first time in her life, she didn’t want to go. The scarlet engine stood in its usual spot, puffing steam, but the white clouds it sent forth felt more to Ginny like a Dementor’s fog.
Looking about her, she got the feeling she wasn’t the only person who felt this way. The usual chatter of friends greeting each other after the summer holiday was much subdued. In fact, the number of friends themselves seemed greatly reduced. There appeared to be twice the normal amount of adults on the platform accompanying half the usual number of students.
Ginny had wondered why both her parents, along with Bill, Charlie and the twins had insisted on seeing her off, but it looked like most of the other families had had the same idea. Sombre-faced parents were kissing their sons and daughters goodbye, hugging them just a moment too long, as if this were the last time they expected to see their children. And not all of the adults were parents, either. There were a number of strangers wearing official-looking robes stationed about the place at regular intervals.
“Where is everyone?” she wondered aloud.
Her mother remained tight-lipped as she pulled Ginny into a hug. “Have a good year, dear” was all she could say.
As Ginny’s father kissed her on the cheek, she saw her mother’s glance dart around the platform. She was looking for Harry, Ron and Hermione, Ginny realised. In spite of herself, she looked, as well, but there was no shock of messy black hair in sight.
“There’s still a chance,” Ginny told herself, but she didn’t really believe it.
“You stay out of trouble,” Fred was telling her solemnly.
Ginny’s mouth quirked. “You’re one to talk.”
“But this time we mean it,” George put in, and there was no hint of sarcasm in his tone.
Ginny was about to ask them what they were on about – they had to know something – when her mother broke in. “Best get on the train now. You don’t want to be left behind.”
But she did. What good was school when Voldemort had taken over the Ministry of Magic? She wanted to fight. That was what Harry was off doing, she was sure of it. He wasn’t going to waste any more time going to school. He was going to do something; he was going to act. Ginny wished fervently that she could do the same, and she cursed the fate that dictated she be born a year too late.
She climbed aboard the train, and chose the first vacant compartment she came to. She didn’t feel like asking people empty questions about how their summer had been. Theirs had probably been just as bad as hers. Getting out from under her mother’s watchful eye was the only positive aspect Ginny could see in returning to school. In the month since Bill and Fleur’s wedding, she’d been practically confined to the house. Her mother had barely let her out of her sight, as if she’d been afraid that Ginny would simply disappear the way Harry, Ron and Hermione had. The idea had been tempting enough when Remus Lupin had informed her family that Harry, Ron and Hermione had found a hiding place at the Order of the Phoenix’s old headquarters. Ginny knew where it was; she’d been in on the secret, after all. If only she could Apparate…. No amount of begging Fred and George to teach her how had produced any results.
She knew there was something Harry had to do. She’d understood that about him long before he’d ever kissed her in front of the entire Gryffindor common room. But there had been no chance for them to say so much as a goodbye to each other. She’d been hoping for that much, at least. If she were honest with herself, she’d been hoping for more than that. She’d been hoping they could come to an understanding that, once all this Voldemort business was over with, they could be together again. She wanted him to know she was willing to wait….
“You mind if I sit here?”
Ginny looked up to see Neville standing in the door to her compartment. He looked older, somehow; he stood taller with his shoulders more squared. From his expression, she could tell that he wasn’t planning on bothering with small talk.
“Not at all,” she replied.
Neville took the seat facing her. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen….” He broke off, looking uncomfortable.
“Harry?” Ginny supplied. “No. To be honest, I don’t think he’s coming back to school this year. Not when the Ministry’s put a price on his head.”
“I know, but somehow I thought…. I guess I thought he’d find a way around that. What are Ron and Hermione doing then?”
“They’re off with Harry… wherever he is. We’re telling everyone Ron can’t come back to school because he’s come down with spattergroit. Hermione’s hoping it’ll just look like she’s gone into hiding with her parents, since she can’t come back to school anyway.”
Neville looked disappointed. “I was hoping…. Well, I was hoping he’d come back and reform the DA.”
Ginny tamped down the first hopeful feeling she’d had for a month. “The DA? What for? What could we possibly do while we’re all shut up at school and most of us underage?”
“You haven’t heard the news then? It was in today’s Daily Prophet –“
Neville broke off abruptly as the door to their compartment opened again, and Luna drifted in. Her blonde hair was covered with a colourful head scarf and she was sporting her radish earrings. “The Daily Prophet? Why would anyone want to read what they have to say? They don’t even think there’s anything to the Rotfang conspiracy.”
Ginny didn’t feel very well disposed towards the Prophet herself. Her mother wouldn’t allow it in the house since they’d run Harry’s picture on the front page beneath a headline proclaiming that he was wanted for questioning about the death of Albus Dumbledore.
“Maybe not,” said Neville darkly as Luna sat beside Ginny, “but they do think there’s something to this.”
He pulled a copy of that morning’s Daily Prophet out of his jacket. Ginny’s eyes widened with horror at the picture of their former Potions master staring from behind his curtain of greasy black hair.
“How can they print stories about this and ignore the Rotfang conspiracy?” Luna wondered aloud.
It was on the tip of Ginny’s tongue to point out that the story about Snape was most likely true, but she preferred not to offend Luna. Instead she snatched up the paper and read the accompanying article.
“Our finest wizarding traditions and values,” Ginny snorted. “Oh, that’s a good one! You’re right, Neville. As soon as we get to school, we need to start recruiting.
“Oh yes, wouldn’t that be lovely!” exclaimed Luna.
Neville looked as if he was going to say something more, but at that moment the door to their compartment opened again. It was Draco Malfoy, looking self-important, his Head Boy’s badge shining obscenely on his chest. With him was a man whom Ginny had never seen before, but he was tall, bearded and powerfully built, with a distinctly official air about him. He dropped a few pink leaflets on the empty seat beside Neville.
“Albert Runcorn, Muggle-born Registration Commission,” he announced curtly. “I’m here to check on your blood status. Names?”
Ginny wasn’t inclined to cooperate, and neither, it seemed, were Neville and Luna, as they all maintained a stony silence, in spite of Runcorn’s menacing appearance.
“Don’t be stupid about this now,” warned Runcorn. “If you’re not willing to cooperate, I can take you all off this train and into the Ministry for questioning. I’m sure Undersecretary Umbridge would be delighted to see you all.”
Malfoy smirked. “I can tell you their names if they don’t want to talk. That one,” he said indicating Neville, “is Dean Thomas. No wizarding blood to speak of –“
All three of them were on their feet, their wands pointing at Malfoy. Runcorn intervened before anything could happen, casting a Shield Charm between Malfoy and his attackers.
“Now, there’s no call for any of that,” he growled. “I suggest you all cooperate now, or else I’ll have no choice but to bring you all into the Ministry for questioning.”
Ginny, Neville and Luna had no other option but to take their seats and comply, while Runcorn checked their names against a list. His eyebrows lifted when Ginny gave her name, but beyond that, he made no further comment.
“Too bad,” Malfoy commented from behind his protective shield. “They’re Purebloods, after all. Pity you couldn’t‘ve come down with something nasty like your brother,” he added to Ginny.
Ginny felt a restraining hand on her wrist. Luna was preventing her from raising her wand once more. She’d have given anything for an excuse to curse Malfoy, Shield Charm or no.
“I’ll just have to get him later,” Ginny said when they’d gone.
“Yes,” agreed Neville, “but maybe we’d better not talk about it on the train. Too many interruptions.”
Since they could no longer discuss the DA safely, Luna disappeared behind a copy of The Quibbler, which featured a picture of Harry on the front page beneath a supportive headline. Ginny was tempted to ask for it, but staring at Harry’s photo would only make her miss him all the more. To distract herself from these thoughts, she picked up one of the leaflets that Runcorn had left.
and the Dangers They Pose to
a Peaceful Pureblood Society
read the title in gold lettering. Ginny gave vent to some of her feelings by shredding it into mulch. Once that avenue of distraction was gone, she thought about tearing into the Daily Prophet, but her eyes kept returning to the article about Snape.
How was it possible for the man who had murdered the previous headmaster to be named headmaster in his place? She knew it all went back to Voldemort’s influence, but it was still wrong. How could Professor McGonagall and the other Heads of House stand for it?
Then two other names caught her attention. Amycus and Alecto Carrow. Why did those names sound familiar to her? The names hovered in her mind like ghosts, maddeningly refusing to cross the threshold of recognition. Memory came flooding back as she turned to the inside page. There, grinning cruelly at her were a lumpy sort of man and a stout, slope-shouldered woman. They looked enough alike to be siblings, and the caption below the picture only confirmed the matter. These were the Carrows. The last time she’d seen these two was at the end of the previous year.
“I can’t believe it!” she cried out.
“Oh, Daddy says you can believe anything if you just open your mind,” commented Luna, looking up from The Quibbler.
“Look! Just look!”
She turned the newspaper around so that Luna and Neville could see. Neville did not react. He’d obviously already read the news.
“They look as if they’ve been attacked by Wrackspurts,” commented Luna.
“They’re Death Eaters!” said Ginny perhaps more harshly than she’d meant to. “They were among the attackers last year when Dumbledore died!”
“Oh, I know. I remember. But why are they in the paper?” Her brow furrowed. “Have they had their brains replaced by Aquavirius Maggots?” she added, sounding worried.
“No, they’ve been hired to teach Muggle Studies and Defence Against the Dark Arts!”
“That doesn’t sound like a very good idea. Whatever was Professor Snape thinking?”
The frustration did little to improve Ginny’s mood by the time they arrived at Hogwarts. It didn’t help matters when Professor McGonagall accosted her and Neville in the entrance hall.
“Weasley, Longbottom, if you’ll come with me, please,” their Transfiguration teacher said sharply.
Ginny and Neville exchanged glances.
“I expect Professor Flitwick will want to have a word with you, too, Miss Lovegood,” she added to Luna, as she headed up the marble staircase. Ginny and Neville had no choice but to follow in her wake.
When they’d reached her first floor office and closed the door, McGonagall rounded on them.
“What is this I hear about an incident on the Hogwarts Express?” she demanded.
“Some Ministry official checking our blood status,” said Neville. “It’s never happened before. When has that ever mattered?”
“I bet he was doing more than that!” added Ginny. “I bet he was looking for Harry!”
“Be that as it may, things have changed in recent weeks. You can’t have failed to see the latest Ministry decrees which make attendance at Hogwarts compulsory for all but Muggle-borns. It would behove you to comply with such requests in the future without making any trouble.”
Ginny could no longer curb her tempter. “Making trouble! That’s exactly what we should be doing! We shouldn’t just lie down and take this!”
“Miss Weasley, as admirable as I find your sentiments to be, there is a time and a place. When you go back down to the Great Hall, you will find that things have changed significantly about this school. For the moment, it would be most advisable for you to keep your head down and your mouth closed.”
McGonagall’s mouth thinned along with her patience. “There are no buts about it. Now is not the time. My main concern is the safety of all of my students. I cannot allow them to rush rashly into danger.”
Her tone brooked no further argument, but inwardly Ginny was seething. How could Professor McGonagall, the head of Gryffindor, hold such an attitude?
She stomped back down the marble staircase ahead of Neville and into the Great Hall. The Sorting was over already, and it looked as if Snape (headmaster or no, Ginny refused to think of him as deserving a title) was getting ready to make the start-of-term speech.
He cleared his throat, as Ginny marched to a seat at the Gryffindor table. “Twenty points from Gryffindor for lateness. Each,” he added as Neville came in behind her.
Ginny crossed her arms and stared straight ahead, refusing to listen to anything that traitor had to say. After a moment, she realised that she was staring at empty space. The entire end of the Gryffindor table was vacant. In addition to Harry, Ron and Hermione, Dean Thomas was also conspicuously absent, as were the Creevey brothers and others that she knew, all of them Muggle-born. Glancing a bit further, she saw that the ends of the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables were equally devoid of students. Only the Slytherin table at the opposite end of the hall looked as if it were full.
A smattering of half-hearted applause drew Ginny’s attention to the staff table. The Carrows were sitting on either side of Snape. Her stomach turned over. She hadn’t needed Snape’s introduction to know that these were the new Defence Against the Dark Arts and Muggle Studies instructors announced in the Daily Prophet article.
When food appeared on the table, she wasn’t able to touch a bite.
A/N: It’s been a while, hasn’t it, but book seven inspired me to write again. Please review and let me know what you think. Thanks to Carissa for the beta.